Saturday, 31 March 2012

BareNaked Swapping!

Hello there! It's the first day of the Easter holidays, with two whole glorious weeks off work! Yippee! Mr JK and I are are heading up to Cheshire later this week to attend the wedding of Snoopydog's elder daughter, and afterwards, we're spending a week up in the Lake District. I hope that we get some sunny days, it's been lovely here this week. I still have my wedding stole to finish, and if all goes well, I will post some photos just before we leave. If you haven't heard from me, the chances are that I'll be knitting it in the car on the way and blocking it in the hotel the night before!!
I wanted to share with you a lovely parcel that I received this week. After the Fall in Full Color Club finished in January, I joined the next club from Knitspot. This one was called Bare Naked Knitspot, and was a chance to knit with natural undyed fibres and learn a little more about them each month. I decided to go pattern only for this club as I have more than enough stash to choose from. One of the enjoyable things about the FIFC club were the swaps that happened between members. So I was very pleased when signups for a swap were announced. My swap partner was Beki, who lives in Oregon. We chatted on Ravelry and found out that we had plenty in common, always a good thing when you are trying to send a parcel of goodies to someone! My parcel from Beki arrived this week, and she really spoilt me! Just take a look!
BNK swap 1 (9)
I can tell you want a closer look, don't worry! To start with there is an enormous skein of Polwarth and silk yarn - a whopping 650 yards altogether, in beautiful berry shades of plum, blackberry and raspberry.
BNK swap 1 (4)
Beki also gave me three lots of fibre - a braid of merino and mohair which she says is her preferred blend for socks, and two sample bags of pygora and guanaco. What a treat! (Sorry about the reflection on the bag.)
BNK swap 1 (5)
There was a handmade quilted bag with a spring clasp at the top, and inside that were three different sizes of my very favourite kind of stitch markers. Although the dangly ones look very pretty, I have had a couple of very bad experiences where they've snagged my knitting. These are all simple beaded rings. Each set has one of two colour beads, so you can use a different colour bead for each half of your knitting. I've never thought of that before, but it makes sense! There was also a dpn protector and a repositionable stitch marker.
BNK swap 1 (3)
Beki sells her stitch markers at local knitting and craft events along with her felted scarves. She was generous enough to send me one, it's beautiful! What a talented lady she is!
BNK swap 1 (7)
As well as all of these gifts, Beki also sent me a bag of dark chocolate buttons which look delicious, (I am saving them for the Lake District!) and a moisturising Lo-Lo bar. I have the Vanilla Moon fragrance and it is gorgeous. It really does make my hands feel very soft. To finish the parcel, there was a cute sheep card.
BNK swap 1 (6)
Beki has been a wonderful swap partner, and we are already planning another swap. I shall be looking out for some fibre while we are in the Lakes. After all, it is the home of the Herdwick breed of sheep! Here's another shot of my gifts. Look closely and you will be able to see a certain little pussycat who was definitely interested in something! 
BNK swap 1 (1)
Which of these gifts do you think Flo had her eyes on? The yarn? Nope! The fibre? Guess again! The stitch markers? No! Surely not the chocolate or the Lo-Lo bar? Definitely not! All Florence wanted was the box! Thank you so much Beki, swapping with you has been so much fun! xxx
cat in the box 003

Sunday, 25 March 2012

While the cat's away, the mice will play!

Hello! No, don't worry, nothing's happened to Flo and we're not infested with rodents! Mr JK and I carried out a little investigation this week. We were curious as to what Florence was getting up to during the day. She is very attached to her toys - Santa in particular, and we keep finding him hidden up. Santa was one of Flo's Christmas presents last year and she does love him!
Thank you Santa (4)
So we set up a little camera in the corner of the room and went off to work. The camera detects movement and then records 15 seconds of footage. This was one of the first 'scenes' shot. To start with, Florence is looking out of the cat flap. You can see her tail twitching on the right hand side.

Cut to a few minutes later and Flo has spotted the camera........
I just wonder what she has got to hide! That paw on the camera was making a point! She definitely didn't want to be filmed. It did give Mr JK and me a good chuckle when we watched it.
My knitting has progressed very slowly this week and I have loads of the Motheye stole still to knit before the wedding, which is looming fast! I really hope that I'll manage to get it done in time. The trouble is, my spinning wheel has been luring me, and I wanted to get the Polwarth fibre finished. If you remember, it came from Picperfic's luxury fibre club, and this month we had 3 different combinations of Polwarth, alpaca and silk.
Potty about Polwarth March luxury fibre 001
I finished spinning up the 3rd braid this week and of course I was desperate to ply them together. I split the fibre into lots of narrow strips, so narrow in fact that no pre-drafting was required. I spun the singles fairly thin too in an attempt to get something like a reasonable yardage. Here you can see the three separate bobbins along with the spun sample that Marianne sends each month.
It's got to be Pink March fibre (6)
It took ages to ply, so that made me feel optimistic about my yardage! I ran out of the Polwarth/alpaca blend first, so ended my 3ply yarn at that point. I then made a 2ply yarn using the other two singles, and when the Polwarth ran out, I simply N-plied the remaining Polwarth/silk mix. I am thrilled with the yarn, it's one of my most consistently plied to date, and I've managed to get about 440 metres of 3ply, plus around 40 metres of 2ply and 10 metres of N-ply. I've always liked the Citron shawl pattern, and I think I ought to have enough to knit one!!
It's got to be Pink spun 008
Mr JK was a bit of a domestic god yesterday and after watching the Hairy Bikers touring the Low Countries, he made their version of Dutch apple cake. We ate a piece warm and it was yummy! I'm just not going to think about the amount of butter that went into it! So I shall leave you now with a slice of cake. Enjoy! xxx
Yum yum cake! 003

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Just spinning along

Greetings! I seem to have been bitten by the spinning bug big time recently. I was delighted to discover that my Coast handpsun had been featured in the latest edition of Handspinning News. I hadn't heard of this publication before, but have signed up for the newsletter as it is packed with great things for spinners. It's definitely worth a look.
This is what my craft room currently looks like.......
It's got to be pink spinning in progress (1)
I was very excited when Mr JK texted me at work to tell me that I had a pink squishy parcel waiting for me. It could only be one thing - the latest club fibre from Picperfic's Luxury fibre club. And what a treat it was too. Three 40g braids of fibre, a mix of Polwarth, baby alpaca and mulberry silk, all to be spun as singles and then plied together. Just feast your eyes on this tantalising trio!
Potty about Polwarth March luxury fibre 001
So far I have spun the Polwarth (my first time spinning this fibre, and definitely not my last!!) and the Polwarth and baby alpaca, and have just made a start on the last braid. I think that this might be my favourite of the three. I'm impatient to see how they look plied together. This will be my first proper 3-ply yarn, as my others have all been N-plied. Here's what I've done so far, along with a sample that Marianne always sends along with the fibre, so you know what you're aiming for! The Polwarth is on the left and the Polwarth/baby alpaca blend on the right.
It's got to be pink spinning in progress (10)
Prior to this, I was busy spinning up another of Marianne's gorgeous fibres, another braid of Coast in the colourway Greenious. I spun this up as a present for a friend, and she was thrilled with it! I can't wait to see what it looks like knitted up.
Greenious handspun
Here's a better photo of the yarn all skeined up. I managed to get about 330 metres, probably my best yardage for N-plied yarn, so I was delighted.
Greenious Coast handspun (9)
I'm plugging away at my Motheye stole, still nowhere enough repeats (it would help if I could drag myself away from my spinning wheel haha!), but I'm still optimistic that it'll be done in time for the wedding! Here's the pattern, lots of lacy winged moths. The yarn is Woolen Rabbit Kashmir, and is just delightful to knit with.
Motheye WIP (4)
My plain vanilla socks are trogging along well. I'm not sure how much I like the colours. They looked ok in the ball, but knitted up I'm not so sure. I hope Zena will like them anyway!
Plain vanilla socks no6 WIP
My knitting club at school has been going well and the children are starting to finish this term's projects. We have been making friendship bracelets ......
friendship bracelets
..... and bendy snakes!
bendy snakes
They have especially loved decorating the bracelets, and I've had my work cut out to convince one or two of them that less looks better! I was exactly the same at their age, I probably still am, if truth be known, with my stashes of beads and buttons!! I'm not too sure what to work on in the summer term. If you have any ideas, do please let me know! I'm wondering about doing something completely different, like felting. It might be fun! I shall have to have a play around in the Easter holidays.
I'll leave you with a photo of my bestest girl, Flo. She is currently snuggled up with Mr JK, using his tummy as a pillow! She is just the sweetest little cat, I can't imagine life without her now. Have a good week and see you soon! xxx
Flo in a sunny spot 003

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Any questions!

I've been tagged by two fellow bloggers to take part in a Q & A session - Kate over at Haunted Yarns and Jill over at doodlywhatsits, so thought that I'd answer both sets of questions in one fell swoop! Here goes!

1. Of all the projects you’ve knitted for yourself, which is the one that you wear most often?
This winter, without a shadow of a doubt, it has been my Monkey Bread Infinity scarf. I love the colour and the warmth and lightness of the mink and cashmere yarn.
Monkey Bread Infinity version 018
2. What item would you never knit, even if you were offered a million pounds/dollars/euros to make one?
Well, assuming that I didn't desperately need the money, I'd probably draw the line at a knitted toilet roll cover! (But if times got hard, I'd knit one, even in neon acrylic, haha!)
3. Do you have a favourite place to knit in your home?
I like to knit sat on the sofa in our lounge. But I will knit anywhere - in the car (as a passenger, of course!), standing in a queue, at school, in a cafe!
4. How long do you spend knitting per day?
This varies from day to day, depending on how much work I have to do in the evening. But I do try to knit everyday, even if it's just a couple of rows on a pair of socks. It is a great destresser for me. I knit more in school holidays and at weekends.
5. Do you have a favourite knitting (or other craft) magazine?
No, not really. When I first started knitting again, I bought various knitting magazines, but hardly ever found anything that I wanted to knit in any of them. I quite like Knitty, and of course Ravelry is such a great source of inspiration too.
6. Have you ever used knitting needles for something other than knitting?
No, I don't think so! But  I can remember my Mum using a metal needle to test if a cake was cooked when she couldn't find a skewer!
7. Have you ever – successfully – taught another person to knit?
Yes, lots! I run a knitting club at school, and have probably taught around 40 children how to knit so far! They love it, and I'm happy that I'm helping to create the next generation of knitters. So far we've made scarves for cuddly toys, owls, cat blankets, Christmas trees and are currently knitting friendship bracelets and bendy snakes!

8. What is your favourite flavour of crisps?
If I'm going 'posh', then I'd have a bag of Kettle Chips sea salt and crushed black peppercorn. I also like Walker's cheese and onion, and Hoola Hoops!
9. Have you ever given up knitting for a long period of time (more than six months)?
Well, I did give up knitting for a very long time (probably close to 20 years!!) when I started teaching. I don't remember the yarns being especially nice and I was just so busy! Then, in 2007, when I was on holiday in Ireland, I was reading The Friday Night Knitting Club, and happened to pass a yarn shop where I fell head over heels in love with a skein of Noro yarn. The rest, as they say, is history!
10. What makes you laugh?
I love Victoria Wood! Morecambe and Wise, The Vicar of Dibley, The Good Life and Gavin and Stacey are other favourites.
11. What is your favourite book?
Oh, that's tricky! I love reading and our house is full of books. We're always running out of shelf space, and I'm seriously thinking about getting a Kindle to ease the storage problem!! My favourite childhood book is Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh. I can remember my Mum reading it aloud to my brother and me. I just loved the idea that a cat could talk to humans! One of my favourite books is The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks. I must dig it out and reread it!
12. Do you accurately know how much yarn you own?
Yes, I have everything listed on Ravelry, so I could (but I won't!!) tell you exactly how much that is in kilometres!
13. What is your favourite thing to knit?
Socks every time! They are portable and require very little finishing off! I'm currently knitting my 68th pair!! (Lots of them have been gifts, I hasten to add!)
14. What is your favourite yarn, fibre/colours etc to knit with?
I am a bit of a yarn snob, and like luxury yarns! A touch of cashmere or silk always goes down well. My favourite colour is purple, and my stash reflects this!! I love yarns from the Natural Dye Studio in particular.
15. Where is your favourite or dream holiday destination?
I never thought that I'd be the kind of person who'd keep going back to the same place each year, but a very special place for Mr JK and me is a small fishing village on the Greek island of Kos. It's not in the least commercialised, and is the perfect chillout holiday spot for us.
Greece October 2011 006

16. What is your best tried and tested recipe?
Nigel Slater's quick soda bread is delicious with a bowl of homemade soup, and works perfectly every time!
17. What are you usually doing, if anything, at the same time as you are knitting?
Either listening to the radio, music or watching TV.
18. Any other hobbies or interests that you are passionate about?
I discovered spinning last year, and that has eaten into my knitting time! Plus I've started a fibre stash too!
19. Choose: Starter or Dessert
Definitely a dessert! But I am a 'stodgy' pudding type of girl and generally like anything that would be served with custard!! Steamed sponges, pies, crumbles, bread and butter pudding!! My absolute favourite has to be sticky toffee pudding! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
20.  Do you have a favourite book? If so, what and why?
See answer to 11 above.
21. If you could meet a famous person, either present day or from history, who would it be?
I enjoy teaching the Tudors in history, and think that I'd like to meet Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She was married to him for 24 years, so I think she must have known him pretty well.
22. What is your favourite animal?
That's easy! Cats! We always had cats when I was growing up, and ever since I've had my own house, I've had at least one cat. Currently we are 'owned' by Florence, who is an absolute darling!
flo - basking 004

23. What kind of music do you enjoy?
I like lots of different music - classical, folk, pop (especially from the 1980's). I don't like country music!
24. What makes you happy?
Lots of things! Walking on the beach with Mr JK, sunshine, a nice meal, cuddling with Flo ...... and nice knitting yarn!!!
So there you are! I now have to choose 12 bloggers to ask them 12 questions, so I'm choosing

Here are my set of questions.
1. What's your greatest knitting achievement to date?
2. Is there a knitting skill that you'd like to learn?
3. Who is your favourite knitting designer?
4. What's your favourite 'easy knit' to make as a gift?
5. What's your favourite film?
6. What's your favourite season and why?
7. What's your number one tip for new bloggers?
8. What was the first thing you ever knitted?
9. What's your favourite 'comfort' meal?
10. Do you prefer circular needles or dpns?
11. What posters did you have on your bedroom wall when you were a teenager?!
12. Bubble bath or shower?

I look forward to reading your answers!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Keeping my head above water

It's been one of those weeks this week! I've had parent teacher meetings after school for three days, and it just saps my energy! I was very glad when the weekend arrived, just for a little 'me' time! Mr JK found this pot of mini daffodils down the garden yesterday. It's amazing to think how they have survived without any real TLC from us to bloom again this spring. They are now gracing the kitchen table and are a lovely reminder of longer days and warmer weather to come.
spring daffs (5)
I had a lovely gift from a friend out in Blogland at the end of last week. Jenny won some yarn in a recent giveaway, and I loved her scarf so much, I offered her some more of the same yarn in different colourways. I was happy that it was going to a good home where it would get knitted, and Jenny promised to donate a little something to Cats Protection (Flo gave that the paws up!) So I was really intrigued to receive a well-wrapped parcel with the word 'fragile' written on it. Inside was a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, made from olives that Jenny herself had hand picked from the olive trees in her Italian 'casa' in Lazio, and crushed into oil in the local village mill. We are going to save it for our Italian cooking and salads, but couldn't resist having a taste with some freshly baked (by Mr JK) cheese and onion rolls. It was delicious! (Jenny, so far I have resisted the shortbread, but shall be taking it with us when we go to the Lake District in April. Thank you!)
olive oil 002
I have finally got round to taking some photos of my finished Norwich City supporters 'Canaries' scarf. I do love the finished scarf, even if the knitting of it was pretty labour intensive. It gives a firm, almost woven effect. I used Malabrigo Worsted weight yarn, and it's buttery soft. I just hope I get a chance to wear it at a home match before the end of the season!
Canaries scarf (2)
I have another pair of plain vanilla socks on the go, but haven't managed to take a photo yet. The Basketweave socks that I test knit for Anne Hanson have appeared on her blog, and if you pop over, you'll be able to see lots more of the fabulous photos that Snoopydog took for me.
I seem to be on a bit of a spinning rush at the moment. I loved spinning the Coast fibre so much that I couldn't wait to start on another braid of the same fibre. I've chosen the greenish one, and it's almost finished. This was how it looked earlier today. Don't look too closely at all the things in the background. This was taken in my 'craft' room, and it's just jam packed with boxes!! There's not even room to swing a cat! (Flo is mighty relieved at that!) Actually Flo is banned from that room when I'm spinning as she thinks the wheel is just one big cat toy!!
Greenious Coast in progress (5)
I've also bought small amounts of a number of British breed sheep to have a try at spinning them. I discovered HilltopCloud on Etsy who sells some really lovely British fibre. I have four different shades of British Shetland fibre, two shades of British BFL, two shades of North Ronaldsay and one shade of British Jacob to spin.
British Breeds roving (2)
I really love this sheepy hat, and am wondering if I can spin the yarn to knit it! Then I'd be able to practise my colourwork too! I do like a challenge, so watch this space!! I'll be back next week, when I hope to be able to share with you the progress I've made on my 'wedding' stole, plus news of the Liebster blog award. Have  good week! xxx